CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A cat named Court House is something of a celebrity at Township Hall, where he makes the rounds daily to socialize with employees.
Now police are capitalizing on the cat’s popularity to promote their safe-driving campaign on social media.
The black-and-white tuxedo cat, named for the county seat, lives at a house on Boyd Street across from the municipal building. Each morning he sits by the Boyd Street entrance, where he knows it’s just a matter of employing cat-like timing to sneak past people coming and going from the municipal court.
Court House naps on a favorite chair in Administrator Connie Mahon’s second-floor office.
“I never had cats in my family. I always had a dog. But I love him. He seems to know if you’re feeling down. He’ll hop on the desk to be petted,” Mahon said.
Then he waits for her or another obliging employee to open the hallway fire door to let him downstairs where he knows Deputy Tax Collector Joyce Weber keeps cat treats on a file cabinet by her desk.
“I’m a dog person. But I look forward to seeing him,” she said. “That’s why I buy treats for him. He’s like animal therapy.”
During the afternoon, Court House strolls next door to the Tax Assessor’s office, where Liz Simpkins keeps a water dish and a handful of cat toys under a chair. She cleared space on the windowsill facing Mechanic Street for his afternoon nap. Court House is a champion sleeper, she said.
The neighborhood feline has been making himself at home at Township Hall for two years. He’s become so popular that someone started a Facebook page in his name — Courthouse Cat — with pictures of his comings and goings in Middle Township.
Court House has even attended Township Committee meetings, where he has wandered through the audience looking for a head scratch.
“I want to use him in my campaign,” Deputy Mayor Dan Lockwood joked. “He’s gotten so popular.”
Employees make sure Court House is back outside before they lock up at night. Sometimes, it takes some prodding, Lockwood said.
“He doesn’t always want to go,” he said.
Now the Township’s Police Department is using Court House’s charms to extend their reach on social media.
Capt. John Edwards used a picture of Court House lying next to a bumper sticker — “LOL + OMG = RIP, Don’t Text and Drive” — to promote the department’s “stop texting while driving” campaign.
“People are more likely to share the message if it has a cat,” he said.
So far the post has been seen 6,000 times on the department’s Facebook page and has generated positive responses.
Edwards said the department enforces careless-driving rules and promotes good driving habits at public events such as the Cape May County 4H Fair or National Night Out. But Court House could be a good ambassador for public-safety reminders that otherwise might be easy to ignore, he said. Drivers who crash and injure people while texting behind the wheel can face criminal charges.
“I think it’s perfect. People love animals and it gets the message out there,” he said.